July 8, 2020 (6:50 PM)

5 min read


PANDEMIC MARKET. Roxas street, famed for its night market, is devoid of people crowding food stalls, gadgets and ukay-ukay. Davao’s local entrepreneurs recount their plights amid the impact of COVID-19’s strict lockdown mandate and their struggles to keep their business running, even online. Photo by Stephen Geronilla

Half-awake, but still sleeping. What was once the empty gray streets for the city of Davao have slowly come alive for the revival of what has been. Certain businesses have now reopened, the installed wide, silver doors now propped up in the ceiling. Silhouettes of men and women are now seen; filling the city of lost chatter and laughter.

The temporary hiatus that the city of Davao was subjected to was put to a stop when, last July 1, 2020, Davao city was now placed under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) after being under both General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). During ECQ, all non-essential establishments were closed and movement was restricted for a majority of citizens, while GCQ allowed for a gradual reopening of businesses and more freedom for people. It goes without saying, however, that the economic condition of the city did not go unscathed.

Behind closed doors

Even though the city has been awoken from its deep slumber, it does not exactly mean that its structure remains the same. With the abrupt halt of the city’s usual activities, it is no surprise that the sales of the small businesses plummeted. And while some of the grocery stores and wet markets continued to operate amid skeletal force and continued to earn despite the situation, the same cannot be said for the small business owners here in Davao who are relying on their revenues to keep their boats afloat.

For one Sahara Abal, currently a BS Entrepreneurship student at Ateneo de Davao University, and whose parents own an apartelle in Davao, their business was significantly affected by the pandemic.

“With this unprecedented restrictions caused by this pandemic, we as the owner and [our] renters are scrambling to deal with this new reality. We are not allowed to force our renters to pay their monthly rental, and we are not allowed to pull them out especially since we are located near SPMC, [and] most of our renters are frontliners,” she explained.

Being in the same storm as their occupants, the Abals’ aparatelle has come to an agreement with their renters, meeting halfway in order to assist each other in these times of difficulty.

“We, as [the] owners, agreed to pay their electric and water bills [that they have] consumed during their stay. They can also pay their monthly rent, but we also consider delayed payments. So far okay man siya, nagabayad man gihapon sila ug due payments pero may delay ra,” Abal disclosed.

With the sudden turn of events, it is hard to expect for everyone to get back on their feet quickly as most business operations were put on hold during ECQ. As a result of the lockdown, so many citizens in Davao chose to stay at home, and unfortunately, several businesses that relied on physical selling or service opted to close their doors for good. 

Survival of the fittest

Physical stores of certain businesses might cease to operate, but those that sell on online markets certainly experienced a speedy growth. With several people nowadays glued to their phones online, business practitioners eagerly grasped this new platform as a way to carry on through this pandemic.

“Nag shift me to online selling. Halos tanan na notice nako naga online selling sa Instagram like usually food or clothing,” Patricia Aceron of The Del Norte Imports and Exports Trading, Inc. and RBZ Hospital Solutions, Inc., said.

Aceron’s business which specializes mainly on distributing medicines and hospital essentials jumped on the online bandwagon since reaching out to the customers the traditional way is currently out of the question.  

 Even though their business is still pursuing their regular deliveries to different hospitals and households in the city, selling the products online is not exactly a cloud nine. With countless competitors offering same products as theirs, it cannot be said that their online venture has been so far effective.

 “Maka-affect sad baya na kay ang ratings and everything. So lisod pa siya karun,” she claimed.

 While it indeed true that some businesses might find the online platform to be an uneven battlefield, online seller Lynell Attos of Make Weave, has found her business growing amid the pandemic. Specializing in making crochet and macrame products, Make Weave has attracted the attention of the many currently cooped up in their residences.

“Mas nikusog ang business tungod sa plant hangers kay ganahan na mag tanom ang mga tao, mga pampalipas oras during lockdown. Especially karun na uso na ang cash on delivery,” she admitted.

Numerous online platforms have extended the lifelines of Davao businesses during this pandemic. Because of the danger of the spread of the virus, business owners, in turn, had to maximize their resources to continue floating through the unrelenting storm of COVID-19. May it be through a compromise with their customers or the daily grind performed by the business owners online, the pandemic has indeed spared no one in this regard.

The struggle of being crashed by the waves may be overwhelming for some, and indeed the few ones who have the means to keep afloat or to even revitalize their boats have so far survived. Because unlike other business ventures who are thriving on the online market amidst COVID, others are currently taking the brunt and or on the balancing beam, struggling. And with the current digital platforms becoming the new avenue to sell one’s products, it will not be surprising to see business ventures adapting to this new change, and will continue doing so even after the pandemic.

End the silence of the gagged!

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